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Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Best Sewing Tip EVER...

To celebrate the new year, I want to channel David Letterman and make a Top 10 List of the best sewing tips that I've ever come across.

If your topstitching isn't good, what's the point?
10. Take pride in your work... if it's worth making, it's worth making well. I know we all hate to take out that seam ripper — don't we? — but really, it's best not to live with some mistakes. And I know the feeling when you get so close to finishing and it's late in the night and you just want to "git 'er done". And I suppose if whatever it is that you're sewing is for your own use, you might think, who cares? But if you're doing a project for the benefit of someone else and it's going to be photographed — e.g., if you're testing a pattern for someone — put your whole effort into it. Believe me, there are only so many angles that a photo can be shot from to hide sloppy stitches, crooked placement, what have you.

9. On the other hand, if no one is going to see "that", don't worry about it. (Perfectionism kills. Have you never heard that? It's true; look it up.) The seams in the lining of your bag are a mess? Who's going to see, unless someone picks open your bag to harvest the fabric? If it's hidden inside or along a bottom corner that's the same colour as the fabric and you've just sewn this amazing curve, take a chill pill and let it be.

8. Pin, baste, sew, press. If something appears to be tricky, I highly recommend following this advice. It may well avoid taking out the seam ripper later. And of course, the pressing part is integral to getting crisp, clean lines on seams. (Pressing before sewing also makes things easier to sew up in the first place.)

7. Measure twice and cut once... and have the patience to cut your fabric accurately or you'll be screwed from the start. I must admit that there have been times when I'm pretty sure I've followed that advice to a "T" and yet it's still not right! I am definitely old school in the sense of appreciating having pattern pieces to cut from. The last pattern I used had over twenty pieces that were just given as "measurements". Yes, I know we can measure our own rectangles, but when you have that many, it is an excruciatingly slow process to think about how to lay out your fabric and keep track of what edge goes with what grain... something that this particular pattern failed to mention at all!

Craftsy's Sewing Machine 911 (free) mini class...

6. Tape is your friend... use masking tape to mark your topstitching or use as a seam guide on your sewing machine. Use transparent tape to keep your fading ink from disappearing too fast! Personally, I have yet to try this, but it sounds like a great tip to keep in my back pocket for whenever it's needed.

5. Clip your curved areas — especially if you're going to topstitch around them! When I first read this one, I thought yeah, that's a no-brainer. But sometimes we need to be reminded about the obvious. In this case, we're talking about a process that's a finishing touch (i.e., topstitching), so it's important that it be done well. Otherwise, why bother? But the part about clipping curves is important, even if you're not going to topstitch. A curved seam that's clipped underneath will lie so much nicer than one that isn't.

4. When sewing together two fabrics of unequal weight, put the thinner stuff on the bottom against the feed dogs. When I first discovered this, I thought, why didn't someone tell me this long before?? Saves on a lot of frustration.

3. Don't sew over your pins! This one was an eye-opener, because long ago, I had been told that if you pin perpendicular to your sewing line, your machine will magically avoid the pins and you can therefore sew right over them! Turns out sewing machines may not have a magical way of avoiding pins after all. Now, whenever I approached a pin, I would slow down considerably. But apparently even so, if the needle nicks the pin, it's still potentially damaging to the needle. And in extreme cases, breaks to either pin or needle could cause physical damage to the operator. Long story short, don't sew over your pins.

2. When in doubt, change the needle (every 8 hours!). In conjunction with the previous tip, when's the last time you changed out your needle? I must admit to being very bad about this... I tend to go a lot longer with a needle than I should, but to be honest, it's because I have a hard time keeping track of how many hours I've run on one of them. In general, I'm not sewing "big projects" where I might feel compelled to change my needle after each one. But you know, when I do change it out — what a difference!

1. Always cut thread on the diagonal when threading your sewing machine. Of course, I should have just consulted my fisherman hubby on this one. With my eyes not being what they used to be and even with the help of reading glasses, I was having a horrible time threading my machine until I saw this tip. It's been clear sailing ever since! This tip is at the top of my list because of the time it has saved me.

Now what about you? What's your favourite sewing tip? Come on — I challenge you to throw something at me that I haven't heard!


  1. Those are great tips. Also I clean and oil my machine when I change my needle, which isn't as often as every 8 hours. I like to use those little red Clover brand clips instead of pins when something is too thick to pin. I start sewing onto a scrap of fabric first and end sewing onto a scrap of fabric when I am sewing straight pieces. It helps to sew onto a scrap so you don't get your threads sucked down into that hole and cause a tangled mess.

    1. Great additions! To expand further on your last suggestion, one other tip almost made it to my list: to hold and gently pull back the threads when taking your first few stitches... also meant to prevent that "tangled mess" syndrome.

  2. Clean and oil! Yes, I clean every Sunday and oil DAILY. I'm a glue baster so I don't use pins. This is a great little blog. I found it originally when you posted your tie bag to Brag Bag Thursday (very cute).

    1. Thank you! Oiling daily? Your machine must love you with the care that you give it. ;-)


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